ATRIP doesn’t solve real problem

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Last month, Butler County Commissioner Frank Hickman said that everyone in Butler County deserves to have a good road to travel.

Having sat in on the commission’s meetings and talked individually with our commissioners, including Mr. Hickman, we believe that he and the other commissioners are honestly working toward that goal.

Gov. Robert Bentley’s Alabama Transportation Rehabilitation and Improvement Program, commonly referred to as ATRIP, has helped.

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And while ATRIP has certainly provided a much-needed financial boost to our road department, in some ways it falls short of meeting the real need.

Only major collector roads, or roadways which serve 500 vehicles a day, and bridges qualify for the funding.

Herein lies the major problem. Only 175 out of Butler County’s 550 miles of road are classified as major collector roads.

The rest are classified as minor collector roads, and are not eligible for federal funds.

Funding for ATRIP comes through the use of Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles Bonds (GARVEE). Through the use of GARVEE bonds, Alabama is able to access future federal dollars now in order to pay for road and bridge projects that are needed immediately.

That’s a big help when it comes to maintaining the county’s major collectors, but it does little to solve the problem of the crumbling Farm-to-Market roads that make up the majority of our roadways.

We’ve heard complaints about how the same roads get resurfaced time and time again, while others seem to be little more than a row of potholes separated by a yellow stripe. We ride many of those roads, and can understand the frustration of those that travel them on a daily basis.

Unfortunately, there is little money to properly fix these roads, which are in desperate need of repair. The Farm-to-Market program that helped create many of our roads ended in 1970. When it went away, so did the state funding that it provided.

Another blow to rural counties, like Butler County, is that all counties once received an equal portion of the state’s collected gasoline tax, but that changed in 1967 when an act by the Alabama Legislature allowed counties with higher populations to receive a higher percentage of that tax.

The result is a cash-strapped rural roads department with little leeway in case of emergencies.

Now, our county is left to find the money in its General Fund to cover the cost of maintaining the nearly 400 miles of Farm-to-Market roads in Butler County.

The unfortunate truth is that the money simply isn’t there.

While ATRIP is a fantastic program, it stopped one step short of really fixing the problem.

It didn’t give commissioners across the state the freedom to use the money where it is needed most.